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How to choose the correct hearing protection

Noise Induced Hearing Loss is a growing problem. With so many products available on the market it is often difficult to choose the right protection solution. To choose the cheapest product or worse still, do nothing because the choice is too hard, will most likely end up damaging those very sensitive human instruments.

This guide will help you make the decision best suited to your needs. 

Bigger Isn’t Always Better: Choose Muffs or Earplugs?

People often think that because Ear-Muffs are big, they provide the most protection. Hearing protectors are tested according to the guidelines in the Australian/New Zealand Standard, AS/NZS 1270: 2002.
Once tested, hearing protectors are given a classification rating from Class 1 to 5, where Class 5 currently offers the greatest level of noise reduction. Ear-Muffs and Ear-Plugs are both available as Class 5 hearing protectors. So don’t pre-judge your protection device.

The Class Rating for New Zealand

To choose the correct Class rating, simply identify the noise level you will most likely be bombarded with. Subtract 80 from this level. This will give you a reduction indicator number. Use this number against the Classification rating number to choose the protection rating best suited for your requirements. 

 Workplace Noise Levels


 SLC80 dB Reduction Range

 Less than 90 decibels


 10 - 13

 90 to less than 95 dB


 14 - 17

 95 to less than 100 dB


 18 - 21

 100 to less than 105 dB


 22 - 25

 105 to less than 110 dB



*Most common protection device available.

 By the addition of Ear-Plugs with Ear-Muffs combination, you can add another 3-5 dB’s to the reduction Class rating.

Don’t Overprotect Your Ears

Choose your level of protection wisely. Avoid hearing protection that cuts out too much noise. This can:

  • Reduce your ability to hear warning signals.
  • Tempt you to remove the hearing protectors to hear what other people are saying.

Removing your hearing protection and exposing you to the very noise you’re trying to protect your hearing from for even a short time, drastically reduces their effectiveness. For example, removing your hearing protector for just 5 minutes out of an 8-hour day can reduce your hearing protection by a massive 40%.

Creature Comfort

Don’t buy hearing protection that is uncomfortable if you’re wearing it for long periods of time. Quality comfortable hearing devices will come at a cost but it will be well worth the extra expense. If your job depends on you wearing hearing protection all day, every day, you need to be sure your protection will be comfortable to wear for long durations. It’ll be worth the extra expense. Otherwise you’ll be tempted not to wear anything, which may result in permanent hearing loss.

For example, if you work in high temperature environments, you may consider using Ear-Plugs in preference to Ear-Muffs to minimise your discomfort. You may also find your ear canals get sore from repeated use of single use foam Ear-Plug hearing protectors and proper fitting high quality Ear-Muffs are for you. Custom made Ear-Plugs or high quality soft, ergonomic fit Ear-Muffs will fit your ear or around your ear and head perfectly, making them comfortable to wear for long periods.

Don’t Buy Hearing Protection on Price Alone 

While disposable Ear-Plugs are convenient and low cost, and can be bought by the packet load, their cost per day soon adds up. This disposable option is best for occasional usage or for temporary group hand outs. If your requirement is for everyday personal use, buy a quality reusable Ear-Plug, it will save you in the long run. Ear-Muffs are the same. For occasional use, a cheaper Ear-Muff will probably do. For regular use, spend a little more and get highly engineered body fit, ergonomic design, full ear protection with a registered classification. Always check the class rating before you buy. 

Quality Control

Don’t assume that all hearing protection is of the same quality or made to the same ‘registered Class Standard’. There is a wide price variation between hearing protectors, so when choosing a product, here are a few FAQ’s to consider. 

Q: Ear-Plugs or Ear-Muffs?
A: Both come in a range of identical Class Ratings, or none at all. It will probably get down to price, convenience and what you feel comfortable with. Class rated Ear-Muffs are by far our biggest seller.

Q: What Class rating do I need?
A: Use the chart illustrated here to identify your requirements. Remember this is an indication only.

Q: How do I find out what Class rating the product is?
A: Find out what class you require first, there is no need to over protect. All registered Class products will state the classification Class number. Choose the Class rating best suited to your immediate needs.

Q: How long should I expect the product to last?  
A: Cheap is good for occasional or one off protection. Although, you can never be disappointed when you buy quality.

Q: Is there a difference in Class ratings between brands?
A: Yes, always check each product for its individual Class rating.

Q: What guarantees do the ‘no class number’ protectors offer as hearing protection?
A: None, however for up to say 90dB’s anything is better than nothing. Class numbers have been created for your ultimate protection.


Hopefully we’ve given you a good idea of how to choose the right hearing protection for you. If you’d like more advice, please Contact Us or call us on NZ 0800 806 608

If you’d like to buy a new Hearing Protection Device, click here

Top Ten DIY Noises

dB (Decibel Level) *(averaged across make, model etc)

Lawn Mower

95 dB +

Hammer nails into wood

127 dB

Petrol Weed Trimmer

105 dB

Drilling with an Electric Drill

80 dB + (operated very close to ears)

Petrol Leaf Blower / Vacuum

110 dB

Cutting wood with an Electric Saw

100 dB +

Sanding with an Electric Sander

101 dB


110 dB +

Power Tools (Grinder, Planers, Routers)

104 – 113 dB

Water Blaster

95 – 103 dB

* These values are indicative only, and have been collected from a range of sources.

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